Knicks confident they can extend series against Pacers
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- As J.R. Smith spoke to reporters Wednesday, assistant coach Darrell Walker noticed the struggling sixth man was in a similar position as the Knicks are.
"Got your back to the corner, huh, young fella?'' Walker said. "You know what happens when they back a dog in the corner?''
Smith smiled and said, "I know. We're going to find out.''
Everyone will find out Thursday night whether the Knicks will extend their season or if they'll be starting another long and question-filled offseason.
Down 3-1 to the Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Knicks need to win Game 5 at the Garden to force a trip back to Indiana.
"We're in a must-win that we have to get,'' coach Mike Woodson said. "We haven't had our backs against the wall very much this season. So we're being tested right now and I feel good going into [Thursday night's] game.''
After winning 54 games and their first Atlantic Division title in 19 years, the Knicks never imagined they would be in this precarious spot. But Carmelo Anthony said he believes they can do something special and take this series.
Only eight teams in NBA history have climbed out of a 3-1 hole to advance.
"I'm very disappointed to be in the position that we're in,'' Smith said. "We're still not out of it. We're still in a good position to where we can still make some noise.''
The Knicks feel good because they're home, where they have gone 34-12 this season, playoffs included. The Knicks also believe the shots that didn't fall in Games 3 and 4 in Indiana -- they missed 102 of 158 attempts -- will drop in the Garden.
But just being home won't necessarily address their inconsistent defense and the way they have been dominated on the boards by Roy Hibbert and the bigger Pacers.
Hoping to change that, Woodson started Kenyon Martin at power forward and brought guard Pablo Prigioni off the bench in Game 4. Indiana still outrebounded the Knicks, 54-36. The Pacers' starting frontcourt grabbed 35 alone. Woodson likely will return to his usual starting five of Prigioni, Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Anthony and Tyson Chandler Thursday night.
"That lineup has been good and there's a strong chance we could go right back to that lineup,'' Woodson said.
It could have been seen as a sign of panic that Woodson, a big proponent of Anthony playing power forward all season, changed things up in Game 4 and moved his star player to small forward.
Part of the problem was the Knicks haven't been scoring and basically started three guys who aren't strong offensive players: Chandler, Martin and Shumpert. They totaled only 12 points in 85:13. Shumpert's knee was bothering him, but he didn't blame it for his 0-for-6 performance. He said Wednesday he feels fine.
The Knicks hope Anthony and Smith, who have been held in check in this series, will have breakout games.
In the three losses, Anthony has shot 25-for-67 and is 0-for-7 with two points in the last two fourth quarters. Smith is 18-for-64.
"Guys talked to me today, telling me keep my head up, keep playing,'' Smith said. "I think that not only goes for me, it goes for the whole team.''
Woodson said he plans to stick with Jason Kidd, who hasn't scored in eight games. But if the offense continues to stall, Woodson could look to Chris Copeland or Steve Novak to spread the floor and make shots.
Overall, the Knicks know they have to show more togetherness and fight Thursday night than they did in the two games in Indiana, where they led for a total of 80 seconds, or their season could end.
"Listen,'' Woodson said, "this is the first time our backs have really been against the wall and it's going to be interesting for me as a coach to see how we come out and accept that and see if we can fight our way out of it. All we need is one game to keep the series alive and then we got to think about the next game but it starts [tonight].''